The Rise of the Sweet Potato. Nutritious and delicious, the orange… | by Robert Lawrence, PhD | Nov, 2021

Nutritious and delicious, the orange root finally gets the attention it deserves in the U.S.

Robert Lawrence, PhD

I recently wrote about the saga of the sweet potato for, beginning with its humble origins in Central/South America, to its mysterious spread to Polynesia, and its eventual global dominion that sprang from the voyages of Columbus to the Caribbean islands.

Despite global embrace of the sweet potato during the past few hundred years, it only received a tepid shoulder hug in the United States until a couple decades ago. Since the turn of the millennium, it seems they have been popping up in more places, beginning with our French fries. I wondered if anyone has kept data on this, and it turns out the USDA does.

Thanks to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, you can find all kinds of data on the production levels of all your favorite vegetables over the years. For the article, I decided to use annual production measured in hundredweight (CWT, =100 lbs.) since 1980.

Here’s the resulting graph I made in Illustrator using appropriate colors:

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